Asking for introductions is a core part of a sales prospecting plan; however, salespeople I talk to are often frustrated at the low number of introductions they receive despite consistently asking.
Through our coaching sessions we identify that they typically have one or more of the following four barriers to getting more introductions.
- Head trash – here’s an inexhaustive list of introduction head trash that my clients came up with in a recent Sales Mastery session, “don’t want to bother,” “don’t feel worthy,” “not sure how to ask,” “don’t believe person asked will make introduction.” A colleague of mine was told by a client that they couldn’t ask for introductions because “my clients will believe that I’m not doing well and they’ll leave me.” Having grown up in a rural area I have a “do it yourself” script that prevented me from even asking for introductions for many years. Getting over your head trash won’t happen like flicking a light switch. Start by journaling out your scripts around asking for introductions, create habit forming traps for yourself to pull you out of your head trash and find or create a third party support group to hold you accountable, pick you up when you fall and celebrate your successes.
- Bad set up – you’ve probably had the experience of a salesperson springing an introduction ask on you at the end of your meeting with no warning. If you’re like most people you probably said “no one comes to mind” or “let me think of a few names and get back to you,” then promptly forgot about that salesperson’s request. If you plan to ask for introductions tell the other person in your meeting ahead of time or, at the very least, at the beginning of your meeting. Setting up ahead of your meeting might sound (not email) like, “Client, look forward to seeing you next Tuesday. Are you okay if we talk about people in your network who you’d be comfortable introducing me to? (Yes) Thank you.”
- “Anyone” trap – another common error salespeople make when they ask for introductions is they start with “anyone who…” Your network doesn’t know “anyones.” They know Project Managers, Field Superintendents, Vice Presidents of Operations or Chief Operating Officers. The more specific your ask the greater chance you’ll get at least one introduction.
- Not being reciprocal – as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “if you want more, give more.” Just as a relationship is a two way street so is asking for introductions. First offer to make introductions that would support your client’s business then ask for introductions from them. A client recently told me that they couldn’t make introductions to their clients because they “didn’t know anyone who would be their prospect.” After a quick coaching session they discovered that the value in an introduction is the support it provides to their client whether that’s to a prospect or not. For example, if your client is frustrated by their copier and you can connect them with a copier repair service or a salesperson for a competing copier company then you have supported your client and increased rapport.
There is a fifth barrier to a strong introduction pipeline – continuing to ask for “referrals.”
Being frustrated by a lack of introductions is good because that’s a growth opportunity. Commit to removing the barriers that stand between you and a strong introduction pipeline and you’ll work smarter instead of harder to meet and exceed your sales targets.
Until next time… go sell something.